Brief Fact Summary. A gay rights group requested permission, but was denied the right to march in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The government may not compel a private speaker to alter its message to include generally accepted views.
Since 1947, the South Boston Allied War Vets Council, a private organization, has received a permit to run the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Until 1992, the city permitted the group to use the city seal, provided printing services, and direct funding.
In 1992, Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (Respondent) was formed and requested access to march in the parade. Hurley (Petitioner) denied the request and Respondent obtained a court order for inclusion. In 1993, Respondent was again refused access and subsequently filed suit.
Issue. Is state law requiring inclusion of gay rights marchers in a privately organized parade constitutional?
Held. No. The parade composition represents the organizers choice of expression. It is beyond government power to control the speech of private individuals or organizations when the organization does not agree with or believe in the message conveyed.
Discussion. Points of Law - for Law School Success
Our review of the appellants First Amendment claim carries with it a constitutional duty to conduct an independent examination of the record as a whole, without deference to the trial court. View Full Point of Law
Parades are a form of expression because the march intends to convey a message and is not just movement of people from one location to another. Since the parade was privately organized, Petitioner had the right to choose the parade’s message and participants to the exclusion of others. The lack of a concentrated theme does not lead to a forfeiture of this constitutional protection of speech.